It is called the ‘Gullak (earthen piggy bank for coins) Bachcha Bank’ and run entirely by children at the Bal Bhavan Kilkari in Patna. This year, till March-end, it made a record ₹58 lakh worth of transactions, the highest by any bank managed by children in the country, enabling it to apply for an entry in the Limca Book of Records .

Opened on Children’s Day, November 14, 2009 by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it was an experiment in thrift education. Gullak Bank had four objectives — help children understand the importance and correct use of money; develop the habit of saving; promote understanding of the banking system, and encourage the spirit of mutual cooperation.

In the first year a mere 447 accounts were opened. Soon the idea caught on and the bank today has 3,463 account holders, all below 16 years, and more are waiting to join. What makes it easy for a child is the small amount of ₹10 needed to open an account. Subsequently, they can deposit or withdraw as little as a rupee at a time. There is a 6 per cent annual interest on the deposits, and those with a Gullak balance of ₹500 get an incentive of ₹75 at the end of the year. Once in three months, the best account holder is recognised and awarded. When a child turns 16, his or her account is automatically transferred to a nationalised bank.

In the very first year there were transactions of ₹64,505. This kept increasing every year and touched ₹58,17,815 in March. There is a small committee of four children who manage the bank. They work for two hours each, accepting applications, opening accounts, handling the cash book and ledger, and ensuring that all transactions are entered through the accounting software Tally.

The first bank manager in 2009-10 was Abhyudaya N Singh, followed for three years by Naveen Kumar and then Yash Ranjan Sinha for two years. Naveen, who at 12 was deputy manager and rose to become manager, says it is not difficult when you learn the ropes, and the Kilkari accounting staff is there to guide you. Since 2015, Ghungru Anand has been the bank manager. Her deputy managers are also girls — Tulsi Lavli and Dipa.

Most of the children who come to Kilkari Bal Bhavan have working-class parents and study in government schools. Saving small sums at a time and maintaining a minimum balance of ₹30, they buy essentials like school books, stationery and clothes. They help their parents too. One child helped his father buy a new tyre for his cycle rickshaw, another withdrew ₹5,000 for his sister’s marriage. The children’s money becomes invaluable during medical emergencies.

The banking experience is empowering, and the children move to college and their working life with greater confidence!

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi